When the others joined him and saw the blood, they all had the same thought: a terrible accident. But it was a mistake to think that, because a few seconds later the child jolted awake and grabbed the tool again. Before anyone realised her intention, she’d put it to her father’s face and fired.
When a seven year old kills her grandmother and blinds her father with a nail-gun, it is considered a tragic, yet isolated incident. Hesketh Lock works for a company that investigates corporate sabotage and is sent to Taiwan to unearth a whistle-blower at a timber plant. The man in question is a loyal employee and claims he was forced into it. His behaviour is bizarre and he speaks of the Hungry Ghosts and starving children. A few days later he commits suicide. But Sunny Chen is only the first, as Hesketh continues his work, a pattern starts to emerge, and if there’s one thing he’s good at, it’s finding patterns in human behaviour.
Hesketh has Asperger’s and it was refreshing to see this in an adult character. It has become a bit of a literary device to allow child narrators to be a bit cleverer and more interesting than the more average child. His lack of social skills are shown in his failed relationship with Kaitlin, his resulting one-night stands and even that his closest relationship is with his young stepson, Freddy. His logical manner of thinking and lack of deceit, make him the perfect candidate for his job and his tendency to go off on a tangent helps, rather than hinders, the narrative. One of his coping mechanisms is to fold origami, both focussing his mind but also in awkward situations, a small gift of origami seems to be the perfect gesture.
The concept of children turning against their parents may be a shocking one but it does raise a lot of questions. Children are never seen as a threat. What would you do in such circumstances, if you couldn’t sleep in your own home for fear of your child? Hesketh is desperate to be a father figure for Freddy even though they are not related and despite everything, he doesn’t want to give up on him. I began to find the children genuinely creepy.
The ending seems to tail off a bit but I loved the character of Hesketh, I could have kept on reading whatever else was going on. I’m not sure there will be enough of an explanation for some readers but I’m not going to give you any clues! As with The Rapture, Liz Jensen explores the factors that could lead to the end of our world as we know it.
The Uninvited is published by Bloomsbury Circus, the wonderful new imprint from Bloomsbury showcasing literary talent. It is available to buy now in the UK in trade paperback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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